Patrick B. McGuigan | January 26, 2015

A conversation starter: Are public schools accountable?

Patrick B. McGuigan


More and more frequently, defenders of the status quo in public education assert that public charter schools need to be made more “accountable.” Further, many assert that private schools, if their students are allowed to participate in emerging educational choice options, should meet the same “accountability” requirements as public schools.

But let’s think about this for a moment. In what sense are public schools truly “accountable”?

Eddie Evans of Youth Services of Tulsa recently remarked, “We've got kids in 11th and 12th grade who can't read at a third-grade level. How’d they get there?" Rev. Donald Tyler, an African-American preacher in Tulsa, is also on record saying “I have kids in my church who have graduated who can't read.”

Well, who’s accountable? Have there been mass firings in the Tulsa school district?

Or, consider this. “The thing that breaks my heart more than anything,” then-Enid superintendent Shawn Hime said in 2010, “is when I see a student who is valedictorian from a school and they made a 14 on the ACT.”

What happens after a valedictorian graduates with a score insufficient to get into a regional college or university, and far short of the score needed for either of Oklahoma’s comprehensive universities? Do taxpayers get their money back? Are there mass firings? Does money get redirected to teachers who can do a better job? If a valedictorian makes a 14 on the ACT, who is held “accountable”?

Defenders of the status quo in public education seem to think that “regulation” is synonymous with “accountability.” Others disagree. What do you think? I welcome your comments below.

[Guest blogger Patrick McGuigan (M.A. in history, Oklahoma State University), is editor of CapitolBeatOK, publisher of The City Sentinel, and a history teacher at Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy, a public charter alternative school in Oklahoma City.]

Patrick B. McGuigan

Independent Journalist

A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Patrick B. McGuigan is founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, and editor of The City Sentinel, an independent newspaper. He is the author of three books and editor of seven, and has written extensively on education and other public policy issues.

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